Imbolo Mbue. It was not just my first vote as an American citizen, it was just the first time in my life that I was voting. I had been waiting for this since the day of my naturalization, I imagined a formidable and joyous experience. That was not the case. The campaign was so dirty and ugly that I was looking forward to November 8 coming, so I could not hear more. However, when the day of the election arrived, I was very moved, consumed by the anguish of the result. I felt a little better after voting but when the results began to arrive I could not cope. I’m pretty calm, reluctant to anxiety, but I was a bundle of nerves that night, my hands were moist when reporters began to announce state-by-state results. Finally, I decided to go to bed before the announcement of the results, while the name of the winner became more and more obvious. I barely slept.
How do you analyze the vote? What is the reaction amongst the immigrants?
Imbolo Mbue. The result has no meaning, and yet the more I think about it, the more understandable it becomes. The American Dream is in great danger. Millions of people who voted for Mr. Trump believe he can bring him back and, according to his slogan, “Make America great again”. The fact that these voters ignored the flagrant moral weaknesses and the president’s complete lack of preparedness proves the level of despair in this country. People suffer and they want to be relieved of this suffering. While their decision seems absurd, I understand their despair. They are afraid of not being able to care for their families because jobs are becoming scarce. They think that immigrants will take control of their country. They are afraid that the Muslims will kill them. Mr. Trump promised to heal their fears so they elected him president. It is very sad that millions of people have made a serious decision based on fear.
Is it an unpredictable backlash after eight years of Obama’s presidency?
Imbolo Mbue. Who would have thought that a nation of hope could be transformed into a nation of fear in only eight years? Barack Obama talked about our shared humanity, and the fact is that, despite our differences, we are one and we should dream together. Some think the results are an Obama sanction, because it did not keep its promises. I do not understand – it could be that Barack Obama did not keep all his promises but he was a great president. He fought for every American and not once did he try to maintain his position of power by dividing the country.
Blacks, African-Americans and immigrants have massively supported Hillary Clinton …
Imbolo Mbue. Afro-Americans have long supported Democratic candidates in the presidential elections, this was confirmed again this year. The same is true for African immigrants. All the African friends I spoke to on the day after the election were in shock. A friend who lives in the south told me about his increased fears for his safety – America has never been a safe place for a Black but it took a whole new dimension after the announcement of the results. Concretely, we all had very bad nights. How could it have been otherwise? Who could have imagined that?
As an American citizen, woman, Black immigrant, how do you see the future?
Imbolo Mbue. I am very worried, yes, not just for me but for children growing up in a toxic political environment. The country entered a completely unknown area. What policy can a president who has denigrated women and lacked respect for them lead? He was supported by members of racist organizations and did not say anything when blacks were mistreated at some of his meetings – how will he deal with them during his tenure? He spoke of building walls and banning certain categories of immigrants – will he favor future immigrants? As a woman, Black and immigrant, I am very worried about what awaits people like me. The anti-immigrant rhetoric was particularly disturbing because America is a nation of immigrants and I am afraid that, under the presidency of Mr. Trump, this country forgets it.
Is it a vote against the establishment? What is the role of the media?
Imbolo Mbue. Despite his disturbing ideologies, millions of people followed Mr. Trump because they did not want the establishment Hillary was in; This establishment that destroyed the country. It was also an anti-media vote. I recently spoke to a fellow Cameroonian who is studying public relations and who is a proud supporter of Trump. He believes that the media and the establishment have for too long contracted an unnatural alliance, which allowed them to retain power as the masses continued to despair without hope. According to the young man, Mr Trump came to destroy this alliance and revealed that a candidate could win by rejecting the media and the establishment, which is good news for those who want to live in a truly free and democratic society . I think massive media support for Mrs. Clinton is one of the reasons for her defeat.
Part of Africa is delighted with the victory of Trump, the businessmen, the young people, because he is a businessman, what do you think?
Imbolo Mbue. A friend recently told me that Africans did not care who was in the White House as long as that person continues to offer them opportunities. I am not exactly on the same line, but I think that most of us are looking for opportunities to improve their lives – if Mr. Trump offered this opportunity, we would reject it on the basis that we do not share Not his ideas? Would Africans stop trying to emigrate to America because Trump is president? I do not believe. According to my friend, if Mr. Trump does not stand in his way and offers him a chance to have a better life, he will support the president-elect. I think millions of Africans and African Americans would do the same.
Can Donald Trump destroy everything Barack Obama has set up, including the Obamacare? What will happen to culture? What can be the response of artists, intellectuals?
Imbolo Mbue. Donald Trump promised during the campaign to repeal the Obamacare, which worries me because I am one of the millions of Americans who have health insurance through the Obamacare. Before, health insurance was only accessible to the self-employed, so we fear the dizzying rise in the cost of insurance policies if Mr Trump keeps his promise. But people will not sit and wait until all this happens. Artists, and others, plan to oppose massive resistance to the Trump administration if it engages the country on a disastrous path.I recently received an email from a fellow writer announcing a rally of writers, so we could talk and fight back. Perhaps there is not much to do in the immediate future but all over the country people gather to prepare to resist. The result of this election caused a new awakening.Even apathetic people are wondering what they can do to resist if the Trump Presidency turns out to be what they dread.
Would your story be possible in Trump America? Is there still a place for the dreamers of your novel?
Imbolo Mbue. When Barack Obama was elected president, African immigrants from my novel made jumps and shed tears of joy. What would they have done on the night of Donald Trump’s election? I imagine they would have put down the fear in the belly. If they had cried, it would not have been a joy. Over time, however, I imagine they would have begun to have less fear and would have tried to regain some hope. Without any choice, they would have begun to think that perhaps Mr. Trump could do good in the country, after all. These dreamers would have wondered if Mr. Trump could consolidate the American Dream in a way he had not anticipated. They would have hoped that their long nightmare could turn into a beautiful dream.